Here’s something that took me by surprise this week. This coming Sunday, May 3, will only be six weeks from my final Sunday, which is June 14! To say that this realization “took me by surprise” speaks to the fact that my focus really has been on the realities of the here-and-now. In all honesty, my move to Port Huron has occupied very little of my conscious awareness these past seven weeks. But then it hit me this week that my final Sunday with you all is only a month and a half away!
It occurs to me that given our current situation, we may not yet be back to worshiping together by June 14. In fact, it’s possible that it may be many months before it’s safe to gather in groups of 100+. Even though I’ve seriously missed worshiping with you these past seven weeks, until now I’d convinced myself that it would only be temporary and that we’d be back to normal before very long. But given what we’re hearing from the authorities, I now realize its ‘temporary’ nature may be relative to a much longer perspective than many of us originally thought.
If it ends up being that it’s not safe to worship together in person until after June 14, let me confess how sad that would make me feel. As I mentioned above, I’ve missed worshiping with you, and I’ve assumed that we’d be able to do it again before leaving. But if it ends up we can’t, it would leave me feeling more than a bit brokenhearted. I’ve missed you.
With that said, there’s something else I want to share with you. I want you to know how much I’ve grown to love and appreciate all of you these past six years. It’s truly been a blessing for me to serve here—to both serve you as your pastor, and to serve the community as one of you. I’ve grown tremendously in so many ways. I’ve grown in my own faith, in my continued understanding of my call, and in my awareness of my giftedness as well as my areas of needed growth. When I first received word that the bishop had called me to Adrian, I knew then that coming here would stretch me; I knew that for certain aspects of my leadership skills it would be a kind of “baptism by fire.” And through it all, God’s been good to us.
One of the blessings of serving this congregation is that you are not a church in conflict. In fact, as congregational health is concerned, I’ve always experienced this to be a healthy congregation. For most of you, your main perspective is yourselves—this church. But from where I sit, my view is much more expansive. I get to “see” all sorts of churches, and I can honestly tell you that there are many congregations who are anything but healthy. Every church has its challenges, but some congregations just seem to have an unhealthy DNA. That’s not been my experience here.
I can tell you the first time this occurred to me. I was relatively new here, and a request came from an outside group to use our fellowship hall and kitchen. Not being familiar with the policies and procedures for arranging this, I approached Chris Brundage (who was the associate pastor at the time) . Knowing how most churches work, my first question for Chris was, “Who from the UMW will need to be there to oversee the use of the kitchen?”
He looked at me with a surprised expression on his face and sincerely asked, “Why do you ask that?”
“Because it’s been my experience that whenever an outside group wants to use the kitchen, the UMW insists on having someone on-site to oversee it all. In fact, they’re kind of protective in this way,” I responded.
Then to my own surprise he informed me that that wasn’t the case here; that nobody in our UMW would need to be present to “guard” our kitchen. To say that that level of trust on the part of the proverbial “keepers of the kitchen” blew me away would be an understatement. It was my first peek into the health of this congregation.
Well, there’s more that I want to say, but it’ll have to wait. Until then, please know that as I prepare to transition to a new appointment, I am mulling over in my mind all the ways I’ve been truly blessed by serving here these past six years. Thank you!